Britney Spears in Australia ( has been something that has cropped up for me a number of times over the past few days. The value of passion as it comes across to me is a very human quality that can’t really be measured and tracked through a spreadsheet but can impact the bottom line dramatically. It’s one of those intangibles that business has to be aware of and consider, otherwise it’ll be too late.

For me the easiest description comes through music. For example, Britney Spears’ Three single. Perfectly fine popcorn music but thoroughly lacking in any passion, despite the content of the lyrics. It’s an exercise in marketing. I’m sure the people involved in the exercise have a passion for the project/track but fundamentally it is borne out of a marketing plan, a demographic study etc. Those lyrics mean nothing to her, she didn’t write them because she’s fascinated by threesomes, is experimenting with her sexuality etc, it’s cynical, obvious and demeaning. Has it been a hit, sure, everyone makes out like a bandit with cash in hand I’m sure. But, everyone feels a little soiled by it and Britney as an ‘artist’ is somewhat diminished by it – sure, you could argue she’s not an artist in the first place etc etc but her next single/album will come with a question mark in the mind of the listener.

With Britney again, her tour is lip-synching. So what, you might argue, she’s a performer not a Singer. However, what was the reaction of some of the crowds? They walked out, it was wrong it was a mechanical answer to an emotional problem. So what if she gets out of breath or bums a note, the point is that connection between ‘performer’ and audience was broken. Will she have any problems selling tickets? Probably not, but not as many the next time and fewer again the following time and so on.

Just lately, I’ve come across a number of items that are the opposite of that. Paul Newman’s food line, the Crank films, The Swell Season, Toyota’s manufacturing process. All completely disparate activities but fundamentally sharing in the same thing – passion. Whether to make the best food with all natural ingredients, to go so far over the top in making a story for film, to make raw, emotive music or simply to make the perfect car. All of them, whether individually or collectively, come from a straight human emotion applied to a ‘business’ context.

It’s what drives me nuts about Rupert Murdoch and his empire. He and it are not evil per se but they spoil everything they touch by draining it dry and cynically deriving as much income as possible without giving anything back to those they’re wringing dry. Sport, news, TV, film – they’re all spotting with good things and good people but at the heart is that dry, methodical and mechanical process. His is a passion for winning, making money etc. All fine and good but surely, little by little his products are losing ground, little pieces falling off the empire every day as readers, viewers and consumers drift away one at a time.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making money, I’m as much a capitalist as the next man but there’s something important in the way you go about it. If you don’t add value to something, if it’s not rich in deep value for the consumer, day by day it’ll wither and die.

Google is an interesting case in point. Fundamentally, the company is adding value for the end-user in the majority if things it does. It’s thriving, making money hand over fist. Not everything it does is good but there’s a touching innocence about most of its works. There’s a passion in adding value to simple experiences like search and that value is worth hundreds of dollars per share.

Apple is another major business case in point. Again, some fairly stupid mistakes are made but the passion in adding value through usability, beauty and simplicity has seen the company return from the brink of extinction to fairly rude health. Yup, it, Apple, screws you on price but the value of their products goes well beyond the dollars and cents. Brand values etc to one side, you feel good owning and using Apple products and that stems from the likes of Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ives (and countless others) imbuing those products with a passion for quality, functionality and beauty.

There are many others, the last two just spring to mind as they’re closest to hand.

I’m working with a company at the moment who are entirely focused in sharing their passion for what they do. It’s got me excited to be involved in the way I am. It makes me want to add whatever quality I can to the process. The end result will be great and whatever flaws may exist will be overlooked and forgiven by users because at the heart of the end product will be a passion and that will add that special value that most people instinctively sense and are drawn to.

Maybe that’s the value of passion. People engage, enjoy and forgive whatever small issues there may be, whereas when the business, process or product is driven by cold hard calculations, it’s all to human to recoil and reject.

A good case in point and much better written: Miranda Sawyer on Simon Cowell